The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 3: Gregory Heisler

The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 3: Gregory Heisler The next SPD Speakeasy features former TIME Art Director Arthur Hochstein talking about his work at the iconic newsweekly he helmed for more than 15 years. As art director he composed over 1000 newsstand covers, and will be telling us all: the good, the great, the terrible, the never-seen-the-light-of-day. In the run-up to next Wednesday, we've asked Arthur and some of his collaborators to talk about their relationship, making a great cover happen, and some tricks of the trade to getting your editor to approve a winner. Today we're sharing work from photographer Gregory Heisler, who shot this memorable Man of the Year cover with Rudy Giuliani in 2001.

(Above): Some of the 70 covers Gregory Heisler photographed for Time while Arthur Hochstein was designing covers.

Gregory Heisler: Arthur Hochstein might be the funniest, most passionate, intelligent, incurably curious man I know. At Time he was more than just a designer; he was a journalist and communicator and second to none when it came to the pithy, pun-y, memorable cover line. And what he does really matters to him. Getting the call from Arthur was always unexpected and exciting. It immediately kicked me into high gear, especially knowing that whatever the assignment was, it was going to happen right away, and we'd have to create a definitive image that would appear on the cover of the world's most important news magazine in a matter of days.

We created more than 70 covers together over a period of 20 years or so. And it was always a complete joy to share his expectant glee each and every time I watched him pop one of my images into the iconic red border. We both remained somewhat incredulous about the whole thing. Here we were, two Midwestern "pishers" creating covers of world leaders and events for Time magazine! But it worked.

Arthur never had a design "schtick" and I never had a photographic one. We shared the belief that what we were doing was completely in the service of that story for that magazine for that week. It had to be created new every time. It was never just photography for photography's sake or design for design's sake; it was literally "applied art" in the best sense. It was whatever seemed the right way to say what needed to be said in the most effective, sophisticated, and accessible way possible, so that every reader would "get it" whether he or she picked up the magazine that week or a decade or two later.

Times have changed a great deal; I'm not sure a relationship like ours could flourish today. The incomparable working relationship I treasure with Arthur is rooted in one word: trust. Okay, maybe two works: trust and respect, which at Time allowed me incredible freedom. Nothing fuels the desire to go all out on a project like the intoxicating, bracing mix of trust, respect and freedom. And that desire was amplified by a sense of mission, of feeling responsible for catching the eye of an awful lot of people and immediately communicating something really quite important to them in the process.

Arthur Hochstein: Greg Heisler was Time's go-to guy for big-time cover photography. There are many things that distinguish him from a lot of other top photographers, but among the most important for me is that when he shot for Time he could tap into Time's illustrative history and make technically beautiful portraits that had contextual elements that helped tell the story. If you look at old Time painted covers, they tried to do the same thing. There is nothing accidental about his pictures--he calls them subject-proof, which means it doesn't matter if the person is having a good day, a bad day or anything in-between. All they have to do is show up.

That's what happened with the Rudy Giuliani Person of the Year cover. The mayor was, shall we say, a little busy in the months after 9/11. So pinning him down was tough. The date kept changing, which was a real problem because the picture was taken atop 30 Rock, with the glorious Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. Greg built a wooden platform out of the frame in front of the ledge where Giuliani was to stand, so his eyes would tell him that he wasn't actually standing on a narrow ledge, which relaxed him and made him a better subject.

The weather did cooperate, a beautiful late afternoon headed for sunset. Giuliani showed up three hours late. The sun was sinking over the horizon. Because of the unpredictability of conditions, Greg had set up a "studio" in a really cool abandoned office that was on the roof of the building. Greg knew he needed a panoramic picture of Giuliani for the opening spread of the cover package, and that it had to be shot as one picture, without fake backdrop or Photoshopping; we wanted to show that Giuliani was actually up on that roof. So he shot that picture first, as soon as possible given the fading light.

Once that picture was done, he took Giuliani into the office "studio" for a shot against seamless that was intended to be Photoshopped against a darker sky, which either Greg or an assistant shot at the appropriate time. That's the background that you see on the cover, which has a completely different sense of lighting. The cover image was completed at Greg's studio downtown, where the processing and Photoshop work was done. In effect, the cover photo and the spread opener were as different as night and day.

Two amazing images, thought through from beginning to end by a photographer who worked non-stop to make it happen, and who had the skill and intellect to execute it. When Greg talked about trust, it was a two-way street--he earned it by coming through again, and again and again for Time.

Related stories:
The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 2: Joe Zeff
The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 1: Tim O'Brien
Arthur Hochstein's 15 Favorite Time Magazine Covers
Speaker Series: 1000 Time Covers: Thinking Inside the (Red) Box

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